Fired for theft, golf store employee sues for overtime pay

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Nov. 24, 2009, 7:33am

SHERMAN -- Although a former employee admits he took unpaid merchandise from a Plano golfing apparel and equipment retailer, he believes he was not fired for theft but as retaliation for filing a complaint with the Department of Labor.

Alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Gary Owen, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed suit against Golf and Tennis Pro Shop Inc. doing business as PGA Tour Superstore on Nov. 19 in the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

As a non-exempt salaried golf instructor employee from Feb. 1, 2007, until his termination on Sept. 16, Owen sold golf products and golf instruction at the Plano store.

According to court records, the Superstore is required to pay Owen and similarly situated employees an overtime rate for hours worked in excess of forty hours per workweek.

However, the plaintiff states that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying its employees.

In July or August, Owen filed a complaint with the Department of Labor for failure to pay overtime. In early September, Owen states he received notice that an investigation was to be conducted regarding his complaints.

Owen states he was terminated from his position just a couple weeks after the investigation began, allegedly for theft of golfing apparel.

Within the lawsuit, Owen states that employees were allowed to wear store apparel while working and "that he unintentionally wore a piece of apparel home and had not yet returned it at the time of his termination."

Although he was fired for this offense, Owen states a managerial employee used store products for personal use without authorization but with management knowledge and was neither disciplined nor terminated after taking the apparel home and not immediately returning it.

"PGA Tour Superstore's termination of Owen was in retaliation for his DOL complaint, and was wanton and malicious and in willful derogation of Owen's rights protected by the FLSA," the lawsuit states.

Owen is seeking damages for lost pay and benefits of employment, payment for each overtime hour worked in the three years prior to the filing of this complaint, reinstatement to previous position at the Plano store, future loss of earning capacity, mental anguish, pre-and post judgment interest, and attorney's fees and costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Dallas attorneys Christine Neill and Jane Legler Byrne of the law firm Neill and Byrne PLLC.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 4:09cv00571

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